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Monday, 7 November 2005
Page: 37

Mr JOHNSON (2:55 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads. How is the Howard government assisting local councils to provide services and infrastructure to their communities?

Mr LLOYD (Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads) —I thank the honourable member for Ryan for his question. The member for Ryan knows how important local government is to his constituents and to the communities around Australia. It is appropriate that he asks that question today, as the National General Assembly of Local Government is being held right here in Canberra this week. The Australian government strongly supports local government throughout Australia in many ways with the financial assistance grants, which are distributed to some 703 councils around Australia. That is $1.6 billion each year going directly to councils around Australia. Since we came to office in 1996 there has been a 39 per cent increase for roads and general purpose grants assisting local governments in Australia.

In addition, we have introduced the Roads to Recovery funding. In the first round of the Roads to Recovery funding we provided $1.2 billion directly to local councils, and in the new four-year funding round we have provided some $1.35 billion, going directly to councils for local roads to improve roads in local communities. We provide some $45 million for blackspot funding around Australia which assists local government. In addition, we are currently looking at the 18 recommendations of the Hawker report, and we have responded to that. Some of the resolutions we are looking at in relation to the Hawker report are the implementation of the intergovernmental agreement to address the issue of cost shifting. Cost shifting, particularly from the state Labor governments, costs local councils in the vicinity of $500 million to $1 billion a year, and those sitting opposite should encourage the state Labor governments to look at how they can assist local government instead of tearing money out of local councils and local communities.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.